After an impressive red shirt sophomore season and a trip to the National Title game, it was widely expected for Eric Reid to take another big step forward and be a prospect picked in the top half of the first round as the top safety in the country. He did not make the huge step expected statistically and some critics mistakenly referred to his season as a disappointment. Eric Reid did improve, but the players in the secondary with him were not as good as they were in 2011. Reid and teammate Tharold Simon were the only players with much playing experience to return to the LSU secondary after Morris Claiborne was picked 6th by the Dallas Cowboys, Brandon Tyler was picked 73rd by the San Diego Chargers, and Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off the team for off field issues. Reid went from being able to being a young gun coming up able to pick his spots more because Claiborne was taking away half the field and he had veteran leadership next to him to being the back end of the defense, being a playmaker on defense, and becoming the veteran leader in the secondary. His statistics are similar to 2011 but he was asked to do far more for the Bayou Bengals often playing free safety in Cover-1.
Reid has prototypical size, strength, and speed for the safety position and is remarkably athletic. He is excellent in coverage, especially zone coverage. Reid has a great feel for spacing and he sees the field extremely well. He is acutely aware of route combinations being used by opponents and executes his job flawlessly as far as who he is responsible for in coverages and which opponents are attacking his zones. And he does all of this while doing a great job reading the quarterback’s eyes and responding accordingly. These are both areas where Reid improved dramatically from 2011. He has demonstrated good range and has great speed. LSU did not ask Reid to play a ton of man coverage, but he did show ability including good feet, agility, and athleticism to keep up with opposing wide receivers. He has the size to keep up with tight ends.
His athleticism stands out when he comes up to support the run allowing him to be in position to make tackles in the hole near the line of scrimmage. Reid will also show the ability to contort his body to avoid blockers at times and work his way through traffic putting himself in position to make the play. His instincts and ability to read and diagnose plays are excellent and this could allow him to make a great transition to the next level.
Reid’s tackling is frustrating to be kind. He has all of the ability to be a powerful, wrap up tackler, but his technique is inconsistent too often and at times, simply dangerous. Reid is a guy who is looking to make home run hits and intimidate opponents, but does so too often and at the detriment of the defense at times. He will try to shoulder bomb opponents, lunge leaving his feet, and the most concerning, he will lead with his head. Forget the fact this is a dangerous way to tackle and could result in Reid getting himself concussed or worse, possibly paralyzed in doing it, but it is simply a terrible way to tackle. It is exceedingly difficult for a player to tackle something he cannot see and when Reid launches himself with his head, his head is down and he is not looking at the ball carrier. He has all of the strength and technique to hit with a ton of power without trying so hard to go for the highlight shots.
The other issue Reid periodically has is he is so instinctive and reads plays so well that he will sometimes over pursue and open himself up for being beat with cut back runs. This will be a bigger issue in the NFL as teams specifically scheme for someone like Reid who flows too hard and opens up big play opportunities.
Reid also needs to improve with his ball skills and cash in on more opportunities where he can get his hands on the ball. He dropped a few balls at LSU he should have caught and this might have been a case of nervous energy in addition to technique, but regardless of the problem, he needs to solve it.
Reid should have a wide appeal in the NFL as he demonstrates the ability to play in a number of different schemes, but he is at his best as the deep safety who takes away the long ball while flowing all over the field to make plays. He can also come up and make plays in the box and gives teams the versatility to move him around and mix things up as he can man up opponents. Reid should be a starter from day one and be able to make an instant impact for a team and combined with his impressive physical tools, he has a ton of potential and warrants a first round pick. He could go at the end of the first round or the early of the second. Hopefully, for his sake, he makes the adjustments necessary to be a great player and keep himself safe at the next level.